Friday, May 4, 2012

Regional Update - May 5th

Our first topic of discussion today is Syria:

Protests have been reported in most of the Damascus neighbourhoods and violence is generally increasing against the people.

It is likely Syrian operations will slowly switch to a safe zone where the regime will protect the minority Alawite population against genocide, ethinic cleansing. The system will attempt to sell this to the international media and the UN Security council. This is probably the final card that the regime will play before its demise.

King Abdullah had told Hillary Clinton in their meeting in late march that they won't intervene in Syria via money and arms until early May because they wanted to give the Annan plan a chance. But we are here today and the Annan plan has largely failed as the bloodshed still continues.

Iraq's Maliki has begun to ensure Asad's soldiers receives their payments by the end of April (no public information has been released yet as to Maliki's role in Syria) in addition to allowing Iran to funnel arms.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi

There appears to be a growing discontent in Iraq over the growing role of Iran's clerical establishment in politics and religious affairs. A slow alliance appears to be forming with Grand Ayatollah Sistani leading this coalition against the Iranian attempts. Tehran has attempted to push Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as an alternative to Sistani! It is incredibly difficult to replace Al Sistani and also a rather stupid move by Iran as it is bound to evoke a lot of anger from the ordinary Iraqi.

The Kurdish government will also be joining the anti Maliki grouping, there is now a renewed effort to remove Al Maliki. There is a possibility of protesters demonstrating against the Maliki government corruption and inability to provide improvement to basic services such as healthcare and most importantly electricity as was seen last year.

Israel and Iran Clash

What can we expect in the coming weeks?

Israeli escalations will continue in the coming days in the lead up to the meeting between the P5 + 1 and Iran. It is a fact that the Iranian concessions made as disclosed in the previous post was due to Israeli pressure and the unpredictability of the Israeli's.

What was interesting is that the Netanyahu had mentioned that 4 countries had made preparations for war against Iran. US, Britain and France are likely to be the main candidates.

Add this to the fact that polls show that the Israeli public opinion is that they want the Israeli government to conduct a pre-emptive strike against Iran.

AFP Link
"The poll, published in Haaretz newspaper, found that 65 percent of Jewish Israelis agreed with the statement that "the price Israel would have to pay for living with the threat of an Iranian bomb would be greater than the price it would pay for attacking Iran's nuclear facilities."

The recent report by the Israeli Defence and Security Committee in the Knesset said that if war broke out, it would encompass Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran against Israel. The report further stated that they strongly believe that the proportion of civilian casualties as a result of Katyusha rockets will be 300 - down from 500 of the previous estimate. But lets not forget that Hezbollah have been provided with SCUD - D missiles provided by the Syrian regime after the revolution started.

I am sure many of you must be wondering about the recent public statements of Yuval Diskin (Former Shin Bet Chief) and Meir Dagan and their criticisim of Netanyahu's positions on Iran. Most recently Ehud Olmert has joined this chorus against the Israeli leadership claiming that this war would be catastrophic for Israeli national security.

What do would an Iranian intelligence analyst be thinking after watching and reading the statements of these officials?

They would be highly suspicious as to whether this is an Israeli attempt at strategic deception that has been used for a long time against the Arabs. Why?
Netanyahu is getting so popular to the extent that he is considering calling early elections.

The Likud party appears to be consilidating its position in the government so that it is less susceptible to pressure from smaller parties especially Kadima. Barak will remain the chairman of the Labour party and his team is already in the government. What does all this mean? The government is united to face the Iranian nuclear threat. Could this explain the reason why the Iranian ambassador mentioned that Iran would be ready to implement additional protocols of the NPT allowing suprise IAEA team visits to Iranian nuclear sites.

Also notable is the UAE's claim that they can restore the 3 disputed islands to UAE control via military power if the political decision is made (made by Dubai Police Chief Dhahi Khalfan).Technically it is possible, but the GCC strategists will not do this due to the political cost of the operation. Seizing control of the 3 islands would mean that the Iranian people would unite behind the regime.

For example. on April 23rd in the Journal of Middle East Studies, Ataollah Mohajerani (a person who spent his life in various positions in the Iranian regime )  wrote an article entitled "Israel's attack on Iran: A moment of Irony or truth"  in which he says that the Iranians will unite including reformers and supporters of the green movement if attacked because national security and independence of the state is more important than democracy.

What the gulf take away from this is that this will be the reaction of the Iranian people in the event of any clash - i.e. even the 3 islands issue.